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Bastardy And Ruin As Liberation

Edsall notes that one-third of American children — and almost 70 percent of African American children — are born to unmarried mothers. Then, in an astonishing passage about this phenomenon, which is the cause of most social pathologies, from crime to schools that cannot teach, he explains how Americans differ concerning what he calls “freedom from the need to maintain the marital or procreative bond.”

“To social conservatives,” he writes, “these developments have signaled an irretrievable and tragic loss. Their reaction has fueled, on the right, a powerful traditionalist movement and a groundswell of support for the Republican Party. To modernists, these developments constitute, at worst, the unfortunate costs of progress, and, at best — and this is very much the view on the political left as well as of Democratic Party loyalists — they constitute a triumph over unconscionable obstacles to the liberation and self-realization of much of the human race.” ~George Will

Yes, I hate unconscionable barriers to liberation–like fathers or intact homes.  Thank goodness we are removing those “obstacles” at a steady rate.  Putting young men on the path to prison is a much better to help them “self-realise.”  This is the progressive story: man is “emancipated” from his social nature and from the obligations of his social relationships, and this is what the progressive calls freedom.  What all sane peoples throughout time have regarded as sacred or at the very least crucially important relationships for the well-being of men and society as a whole, the progressive presumably writes off as several thousands of years of effective propaganda (based in structures, of course, of racegenderclass–say it all together now!).  The wisdom of ages is just another obstacle to be overcome to achieve liberation.  And if you point out the significant dislocation, the huge social costs, the death of humane society that result from these things, the progressive tells you not to idealise the families of yore (“they weren’t perfect!” he will tell you unhelpfully) and says, “These are the unfortunate costs of progress.”  Case closed.  “Progress” has been served, therefore it is an acceptable loss.  After all, you can’t make an emancipated, self-realised world without wrecking a few homes and creating a few criminals!

What is striking is not how unreconstructed Edsall is in his contempt for natural human institutions (in the era of Clinton, this sort of thing would be shunned on the left and pushed to the outer fringes); any committed progressive ideologue could not be what he is and not have contempt for these things.  What is striking is how similar this kind of decidedly anti-family, anti-marriage argument is to the arguments advanced in support for the gale forces of “creative destruction” when it comes to small businesses and small communities.  The structure of the response is the same: 1) minimise the problem; 2) show how the destruction of old ways and institutions is actually “liberating” and part of our “freedom”!; 3) dismiss opponents as romantics who ignore the flaws of the alternatives (which is almost always false); 4) enter into deep denial when the deleterious effects of the destructive forces you are encouraging are held up for all to see.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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